From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag, or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong cloth, originally silk, now most commonly nylon. Parachutes must slow an object's terminal vertical speed by a minimum 75% in order to be classified as such. Depending on the situation, parachutes are used with a variety of loads, including people, food, equipment, space capsules, and bombs.
The word "parachute" comes from the French prefix paracete, originally from the Greek, meaning to protect against, and chute, the French word for "fall", and it was originally coined, as a hybrid word which meant literally "that which protects against a fall", by the French aeronaut François Blanchard (1753–1809) in 1785.